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Seven Reasons to Study Eschatology

One gripping and distinct feature of biblical Christianity is that it is forward-looking. God has spoken authoritatively about the future in His word, the Bible. Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and other world religions each have their own doctrine of the future, but they are not as comprehensive and convincing, nor as fascinating and terrifying as the Bible’s teaching on the future. They all pale in comparison like a penny to a planet.

The word of God covers it all, like a reporter from the future. In the Bible, God tells us that there is life after death, that we must face Him in judgment, and that life will go on well after you take your final breath. But the Bible’s teaching on the future is not limited to eternity in heaven or hell—it also explains what God will do in the future to bring history to an end. God has a plan for the future. He will work in history to accomplish His purposes. The Bible tells us what will happen to us as individuals in eternity as well as what will happen to the world in history.

The branch of theology devoted to the study of the future is called eschatology. The Greek word eschatos means “last” or “end,” and eschatology is the study (the ology) of the end, or the study of the last things. Eschatology is the study of the Bible’s teaching on the future. When we study eschatology, we engage the plethora of biblical authors who were inspired by the Spirit of God, as He gave them “reports” about the future. We listen to John who was caught up in the Spirit when he penned the book of Revelation. We attend to the teachings of Peter, Paul, James, and Jude as God disclosed to them the events of the future by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And most importantly, we also hearken to Jesus, the eternal Lord, who told us what to expect in the future and in the life to come.

But why study eschatology? Why learn what the Bible teaches about the future? After all, isn’t eschatology confusing and only understood by scholars and pastors?

To be fair, eschatology can be confusing and it has certainly been muddied by years of misinterpretation and misrepresentation. Modern-day eschatology can be like a supreme pizza with too many toppings—nothing more than an unappealing mess. But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can clearly understand what the Bible teaches about the future through careful and faithful study. And here is why you ought to do so:

Reason #1: Because You Cannot Know the Future Without Eschatology

Human beings have memory of the past and awareness of the present, but we do not have the ability to foresee the future. You might have flashbacks, but you cannot have flashforwards. Precognition and perception of the future is reserved for Doctor Strange and the God of the Bible—and only one truly exists (sorry, Marvel fans). We may make reasonable predictions about the future based on patterns or natural order, but we do not inherently possess the ability to forecast future events with exact precision. Only God knows the future—He is omniscient or all-knowing. “He knows everything,” John wrote (1 John 3:20b). His understanding is beyond measure and He knows everything about everything. He is the author and possessor of the only infinite encyclopedia.

Thankfully for us, the God who knows the future (and ordained it) has revealed the events of the future, to some extent, in His word. God has disclosed in the Scriptures what are the grandiose eschatological events that will affect the entire universe, as well as what will happen to each individual person in eternity, based on their belief or rejection of Christ as Savior and Lord.

As Wayne Grudem aptly stated, “Although we cannot know everything about the future, God knows everything about the future and he has in Scripture told us about the major events yet to come in the history of the universe. About these events occurring we can have absolute confidence because God is never wrong and never lies.”1

Reason #2: Because Eschatology Is in the Bible

You should study eschatology simply because it is biblical content. Everything in Scripture is profitable for the believer (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and that includes the doctrine of the future. True, nowhere in Scripture is it written, “Thou shalt study eschatology,” but this is one area of theology that you are specifically exhorted to get right.

That is what the apostle Paul implied in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. In this passage, Paul explained that death is only “sleep” for believers, since Christ will come again in a glorious return to “wake up” believers in resurrection. He dealt with the future in this text—eschatology. But notice how he prefaces the passage: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (v. 13). Paul did not want the Thessalonians to be ignorant or uninformed about death, “the coming of the Lord,” and the resurrection when believers “will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (v. 15, 17). He wanted them to be informed as opposed to uninformed about futuristic events.

For Paul to say this means it is possible to be either informed or uninformed about eschatology. You can have the right information, the wrong information, or no information about the future. But you can and should be correctly informed. It is possible to possess correct knowledge about the future and it is expected that you do what is necessary to possess it.

Reason #3: Because False Ideas Abound

No area of theology is as rife with false ideas as eschatology (soteriology is a close second). Useless speculations and unbiblical propositions swarm the field of eschatology like a diamond ring in a public trash can—it’s hard to see the good stuff for the abundance of garbage. Shelves of misleading books have been published on the end times by those claiming to be evangelicals as well as liberal theologians who treat the Bible like Silly Putty, modifying it in anyway they want. And every year, dozens of new bizarre and bogus eschatological books fly off the press. You can count on it—if Israel fires a missile, if the United States votes for a new President, or if the moon burns red in an astronomical anomaly—someone will fill their pocket by releasing another phony volume on how the Bible supposedly predicts such matters.

Turn on the television and you’ll find a plethora of late-night prophetic “experts” whose only real expertise is falsehood. Jim Bakker promotes the sale of dehydrated and freeze-dried foods on his television program, since apparently the Bible prophesies a famine in the 21st century. Irvin Baxter, who hosts Understanding the Endtime, teaches on his one-hour program that the Bible mentions the United States, the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, and other biblical prophecies which are being fulfilled before our eyes by current events. During It’s Supernatural, host Sid Roth interviews guests who have visited heaven in near-death experiences and crazed charismatics who claim God spoke directly to them about how Russia will lead the way to the New World Order.

These dangerous wolves and their deadly ideas will remain abundant since they have convenient explanations for a confusing subject. And they will continue to have a bounty of material since there will always be wars, earthquakes, planetary phenomena, and technological advancements.

The temptation to be deceived and the susceptibility to circumvent biblical truth is especially prevalent in the study of eschatology, since it is sometimes puzzling and complex. By the way, if we believe that we are exempt from deception in our own eschatology, then we carelessly assume that we are better than the Thessalonians and need no warning from the apostle Paul! He wrote to them: “Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3a). He did not want them to be unsettled or deceived in their thinking about the second coming and eschatological events—which means it is possible to be deceived and unsettled.

The final and only authoritative word on the second coming, the end times, and the future is the word of God. The way to determine if a stick is crooked is to lay a straight one beside it—and studying the Bible’s teaching on eschatology is the only way to avoid crooked deception. Proper interpretation will prevent you from falling into parlous deception (or it may rescue you from it).

Reason #4: Because Clarity is Possible and Confusion is Avoidable

Many people drive past the study of eschatology because it appears to be complicated and baffling. Unfortunately, eschatology has been understood as nothing more than perplexing charts, heated arguments, endless “isms,” and biblical math. This is a serious underestimation, to say the least, for biblical eschatology is so much more.

Certainly, God is not responsible for the confusion that has infiltrated eschatology. He is not the author of confusion and His word is clear and understandable (1 Corinthians 14:33). The responsible party for confusion, then, must be sinful and fallible men.

Why, then, is eschatology sometimes unsettling and confusing? Here’s how I see it: on The Price is Right, each audience member shouts a different answer to help the contestant make the right call on the value of an item. But it’s nothing more than annoying noise because of the abundance of answers. Does that mean there is no correct answer? No, but it makes it difficult—nearly impossible—to discern the right answer. Likewise, understanding what the Bible truly teaches about the future is challenging because everyone is shouting different answers—but that doesn’t mean the right answer is undiscoverable.

Again, Paul implied in 1 Thessalonians 4 that you can have the right biblical information about the future. And he also implied in 2 Thessalonians 2 that it is possible not to be deceived regarding eschatological matters. A biblical and thoroughly correct understanding of eschatology is attainable. The study of eschatology is definitely demanding and difficult, but it does not have to be disorienting. The right answer is out there—the difficulty lies in muting those who shout the wrong answers.

Reason #5: Because Eschatology Affects Your Life in the Present

“I’ll be by your office between 9 and 10 this morning,” a church member assured. Did they mean 9:15 or 9:59? Well, I didn’t have that information. All I knew is that they would visit me in the near future. And I conducted myself accordingly by waiting for them by the church door. What I knew about the future affected what I did in the present.

When you learn and discover what the Bible says about the future, your life in the present is directly impacted. What you do today is always governed by what you know will happen tomorrow. And when you know for certain, for instance, that Christ will visit the earth again in glory and judgment (as the Bible teaches), you will stand by the door in anticipation! His second appearance is guaranteed, unavoidable, drawing nearer, and no man knows the day or hour when it will be (Matthew 24:36). Knowing this truth about the future compels you to do something about it now.

Eschatology enables faithfulness in the present. As John Frame wrote, “So far as I can see, every Bible passage about the return of Christ is written for a practical purpose—not to help us to develop a theory of history, but to motivate our obedience.”2 The promise of a new heavens and new earth encourages you to abandon worldliness. The reality of belonging to the kingdom of God now prevents a toxic obsession with the affairs of earthly kingdoms and nations. The certainty of impending (and ongoing) state-sponsored persecution of the church compels you to stick close with the local church, in preparation to suffer and die together. What is done in the present is determined by what is to come in the future (at least, it ought to be).

I’ve often heard, “Why concern myself with what’s going to happen in the future? What’s gonna happen is gonna happen, so shouldn’t we focus instead on evangelism, Christian living, and figuring out how to grow closer to God?” Interestingly, biblical eschatology is what provides clarity and perspective on all those crucial matters. Eschatology fills the fuel tank of passion in evangelism. Eschatology keeps you glued to the right path. And nothing will compel you to grow closer to God than knowing that the day of the Lord grows closer (which is eschatology). Eschatology may be concerned with the then, but it is certainly for the now.

Reason #6: Because You Cannot Prepare for the Future Without Eschatology

You can’t prepare for something if you don’t know it’s coming. If I had no knowledge of my church member’s intent to fellowship in my office that morning—I might have missed an important visit. If you missed the emergency weather warnings on the morning news, you may get caught in a tornado on your way to work. If you toss a summons from the courthouse that states that on such-and-such date you are to appear in court for a speeding ticket, you may end up paying more than a small fine!

If you do not know that Christ is coming again, you may be on the wrong side of the most important visit in history. If you miss the warnings in Scripture about the storm of God’s wrath that Christ will unleash at His Parousia, you will get caught in more than a tornado. If you ignore the clear statements in the Bible that you will be judged on the Final Day, you will pay more than you could ever imagine.

You must know eschatology to be prepared for the redemptive events of the future. But conversely, you need biblical eschatology to avoid preparing for something that will never happen. Many believe credit cards and vaccines are the mark of the beast. More believe that Joe Biden is the antichrist (like literally every other United States President). And some hold that the moving of the United States embassy to Jerusalem is an undeniable sign of the end. Here’s the bottom line: your heart won’t wander into these endless and meaningless speculations about the future when you are firmly planted in the Scripture’s teaching on the future.

Reason #7: Because Eschatology is Encouraging

As stated earlier, it is lamentable that eschatology has been reduced to a puzzle of confusion. This grave miscalculation of the value of biblical eschatology has caused many Christians to forfeit one of its most rewarding benefits: encouragement. Surprisingly, it is eschatology that will lift your head and lighten your heart. Tell me—what is more encouraging than knowing that Jesus is coming to earth to bring grace and reward? What is more encouraging than knowing Christ will come again to usher in a new heavens and new earth? What is more encouraging than knowing He will transform your lowly body and gather you unto Himself?

When you are troubled with guilt, study eschatology—it tells you that you will be guiltless on the day of Christ’s coming (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13). When you are weary of this present world and physically afflicted with bodily aliments, study eschatology. It assures you that the Savior will “transform [your] lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:20). When you are exhausted from grief, study eschatology. It reveals that Christ will bring heaven to earth for every believer and, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). When seeking things above and living for the kingdom becomes burdensome, study eschatology. It proclaims that such faithfulness is worth it because, “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:4).

Conclusion

How can you get started in your study of eschatology? There will be more on this later. This is only the first of many forthcoming posts in a series on biblical eschatology. To the best of my ability, I will cover it all right here on the blog. I will discuss the central eschatological passages in Scripture, interact with all the main viewpoints, and discuss topics like the rapture, the great tribulation, the antichrist, Israel and the church, the kingdom of God, the millennial reign of Christ, and much more. But if you want to get started studying eschatology, I recommend reading The Bible and the Future by Anthony Hoekema, Kingdom Come by Sam Storms, A Case for Amillennialism by Kim Riddlebarger, and The Presence of the Future by George Ladd. For works more systematic and more appropriate for study, see the volumes Systematic Theology by John Frame and The Christian Faith by Michael Horton.

  1. Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 1091.
  2. John M. Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2013), 1094.

Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (Aussiedor), and Dot (beagle).

The Invincible Kingdom of Christ (Psalm 2)

The following sermon was delivered at Ohio Valley Baptist Church in Barlow, KY on the 26th day of February, 2017:

“1 Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”

4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”

7 I will tell of the decree:
The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the LORD with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2).

Introduction: Jesus is an Invincible King

Something unique about and exclusive to Christianity is that we worship and serve a King. Not just a King, but the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords. Yes, we worship Christ who is our Shepherd, Savior, Prophet, Priest, Mediator, and Lord. But something that distinguishes us from other religions is that it isn’t just a man we are worshiping. He isn’t just a good man, or even just a deity, or a God-like being—Jesus Christ is a King. He isn’t an enlightened man like Buddha, He isn’t a prophet visited by an angel like Muhammed or Joseph Smith (Mormonism). He isn’t among a host of other gods, as in Hinduism. He is a King greater than any religious figure. And He is a king greater than any political figure, greater than Caesar or any government, administration, or president (Acts 17:7).

He is the “King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God” (1 Tim. 1:17). He is “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15). Jesus Christ is a King and His kingdom is invincible. When Jesus appeared the first time, His kingdom was inaugurated—His first coming marked the beginning of the coming of the kingdom of God, His rule and reign on the earth. When He came the first time, died on the cross, rose from the grave, and ascended to heaven—that’s when the administration of Jesus took over! He dominates, rules, and reigns in the world today through the Holy Spirit which He and the Father have sent to the world to carry out His purposes.

So it is clear from Scripture that the kingdom of God is invincible—and not just because the Spirit of God is here today accomplishing the will and purpose of God. It is invincible not just because Jesus is ruling in the hearts and lives of millions across the world. The chief reason that the kingdom of God is invincible is because one day, Jesus is coming back to finish what He started. One day, the King of Kings will return to gather in all His sheep, conquer anyone who stands in His way, and dominate the nations so that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11). He will come to rule, He will come to reign, He will make war and will dominate all nations, and conquer His enemies. And while this gives great hope for the church today, it also highlights the foolishness of anyone who might seek to revolt and fight against Him.

Scripture says that when He comes, those who are in rebellion against Him will mourn and wail—they will be put to shame, because they won’t stand a chance against Him. It is foolish and deadly to be against Jesus because, while we don’t know the day or the hour of His second advent, we are always one day and one hour closer! But oh, the folly of those who reject Him—oh the absurdity of those who are unsaved and the dangerous ignorance of those who revolt against Him! It is foolishness in the highest degree to reject Jesus because His kingdom is absolutely invincible, impenetrable, and it is impending—getting closer and closer to the time when Jesus will conquer all. And that’s the thrust of the second psalm we have before us. We’re going to see in this psalm that it is foolish for man to revolt against the Lord because of the invincible and impending kingdom of Jesus Christ—instead of revolt, one should submit to and take refuge in Jesus. This is a call to both nonbelievers and believers alike. Nonbelievers need to take refuge in Christ to avoid the terrible fury of God’s wrath, and we as believers need to continually take refuge in Christ daily so we may overcome sin and have our eyes fixed on the day when He comes again.

The psalmist writes this from an observer’s point of view and speaks of a great rebellion, and a greater king who will conquer all rebellion. The psalmist speaks of the nations of the world who are revolting against the kingdom of God, how God will conquer them all through His king, and ultimately through His Son. And the psalmist invites all who read this psalm to trust in this King who is the Lord Jesus Himself. We will see in this psalm:

I. The Revolt of the Apostates (2:1-3)
II. The Response of the Almighty (2:4-6)
III. The Rule of the Anointed (2:7-9)
IV. The Recommendation to the Apostates (2:10-12)

Let us look now at the word of God:

I. The Revolt of the Apostates (2:1-3)

First of all, we see in vv. 1-3 that it is foolish to revolt against the Lord, expecting liberation. It is absurd to rebel against the Lord, thinking that you can overthrow His sovereign rule. The psalmist expresses here that the apostates are fools to plot a revolt in order to be liberated from the rule of God and His anointed one. Listen to the underlying tone of foolishness in the way the psalmist describes the world’s revolt against the Lord:

“1 Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us” (vv. 1-3).

The psalmist opens this psalm with a question: “Why do the nations and the peoples plot in vain?” (v. 1). He sees the nations and peoples of the world plotting and raging against the Lord, and asks why.  You can even hear the concern in his voice in the way he penned v. 1—he views the nations’ revolt against the Lord as absurd, foolish, and stupid. And this idea leads the psalmist to ask, Why? Why would the nations do such a thing, he asks. Of course, “the nations,” in this psalm (and the Old Testament), are those who are outside of God’s covenant family. They are Gentiles, apostates, those who are outside of the faith—those who are pagan, worshiping other gods like Baal and Molech. These are not nations which worship the true God. It is said that these nations “rage,” and “plot in vain,” meaning they are restless, raging, and conspiring to do evil. They are upset about something, restless about something. And even this far in to the psalm the psalmist views their rebellion and revolt as absolutely foolish: Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? Don’t they know they are planning destruction for their own selves?

Notice also, their raging now leads to plotting. In v. 2, they move to greater action than just raging and being restless: “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed.” Now the psalmist tells us what the apostates actually do in an attempt to carry out their revolt against the Lord and His anointed. The kings of the earth come together and the rulers come to take counsel together—they meet to discuss what they must do. They draw up plans, prepare weapons, train their armies, enlist their generals, locate their targets, and prepare reinforcements. They are meeting together to conspire a great revolt, a great rebellion. But it is not against another army, not against another nation, not to conquer land, not even to conquer the world—they plan a revolt “against the LORD and his Anointed.” That’s why the psalmist views them as dimwits, and it’s as if the psalmist is saying, “Why would you revolt against God? He is all powerful, all-knowing, all-present and who destroys His enemies.”

But that’s the focus of their rebellion—they rebel and revolt against the Lord God of heaven and earth, and they rebel against “his Anointed.” The anointed one would be the king of Judah—likely David at this point. Those who ruled God’s people were considered anointed—set apart by God Himself for His purposes, namely, to carry out His rule and reign among the people. Often you will see David saying things like, “[God] shows steadfast love to his anointed” (Psalm 18:50), or “the Lord saves his anointed” (Psalm 20:6). Statements like that are references to himself because he was the anointed king who ruled in Judah. Interestingly, the Hebrew word for “anointed” here is masiah, which sounds a lot like Messiah, who is truly God’s anointed One. We know that the true Messiah is Jesus, God’s Anointed One. Keep that in mind for now, we will say more on that later.

And finally in v. 3, we have the goal of their plotting. The reason they are angry, the reason they are plotting, the reason they are planning a revolt against the Lord and His anointed king is this: “Let us burst their bonds apart, and cast away their cords from us” (v. 3). They want to separate the bond that exists between the Lord and His anointed king, for if they can get the Lord out of the picture and have the king by himself, they can be victorious in their revolt. So they first want to “burst” apart the “bond” between the Lord and His anointed. Secondly, they want to be liberated from both the Lord and His anointed! “Let us . . . cast away their cords from us.” They want to be free from His restraints on them as well.

So all throughout this section (vv. 1-3), it is clear that it is foolish to revolt against the Lord, expecting liberation. And that is the first thing the psalmist tells us about King Jesus and about His invincible kingdom. It is very clear from what we’ve just read that it is deadly, foolish, and even audacious to revolt against the Lord—but let’s not make the mistake of leaving this passage in the dust of ancient time, because anytime we sin, we are declaring a revolt against the Lord as well! This idea of attempting liberation from the rule of God has been mankind’s central problem since the beginning – and it never ends well. Adam and Eve took the fruit because it was a “delight to the eyes,” so that they “could be like God.” The real sin was not mere disobedience, but idolatry of their own selves. They wanted to be like God, and they didn’t want the rule of God over them. And this is what happens when sin is committed. It is saying: “Let me be free from slavery to God!” It is declaring an insurrection upon God—declaring independence from God, saying by our actions that we do not need Him. Sin isn’t a mistake, it isn’t an accident, or a blooper. Sin is a willing revolt against an invincible King. And the utter foolishness of it is seen in that, when we sin, we are standing upon the very ground which God created and sustains – having a beating heart, breathing lungs, and a working mind – all of which are completely owned and operated by God! Sin is foolish, for we are using what God has created against Him. Sin is deadly and audacious foolishness.

Since the Fall, we have been in a revolt against God and His rule—it is deeply threaded within the very fabric of our existence to rebel against God and His dominion over us. We want to rule, we want to be in control of our lives and our decisions. The only solution to this problem is to have God be Lord over us again—and this happens through the gospel. This happens as God uses His anointed King Jesus to conquer the rebellion in our hearts and have us joyfully submit to Him by His grace. But even as believers today, when we sin against God it is a revolt. Do you view your sin that way? Pray that God would help you view your sin as a revolt against Him. We could certainly use more help in viewing our sin for what it really is. And the more we are sanctified through the word of God, as the Holy Spirit applies it to us, we will naturally view sin as “exceedingly sinful” (Rom. 7:13). Our distaste for sin should continue to grow, so that anytime we come in contact with sin or a tempting situation, we will see it as a bitter poison. If your distaste for sin isn’t growing, it’s because you don’t view it as an attempt to overthrow the rule of God on your life. It is foolish to revolt against the Lord, expecting liberation.

II. The Response of the Almighty (2:4-6)

But how does God respond to this? Does God get enraged with anger at their revolt? Does He open up battle plans on a table? Does He worry about the well-being of Israel and Judah? Does God stop their revolt because of the threat it poses to the kingdom which will one day bring forth the Messiah?

Not only is God not bothered, but He laughs:

“He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill” (vv. 4-6).

God is not bothered by men’s revolt because of His established King. The psalmists notes that God is unaffected by their revolt and responds with laughter, terror, and confidence in His appointed king.

The psalmist says, “He who sits in the heavens laughs.” God laughs at them. God scorns and laughs—He is unchanged by their conspiring and plotting. God is He who sits in the heavens—He is in control of all things and He is far above them. He could wipe them out in a second. The ground upon which they stand could swallow them up to Sheol at any time—just as soon as God gave the command for it to do so. So of course, He laughs. 

Not only does He laugh, but “The Lord holds them in derision.” He views them with contempt—a scornful laugh comes from His throne as He sees apostates attempting to throw off His rule over them. The one who sits in heaven is the Master of the universe—He isn’t bothered by a tiny spec of humans on one planet in His universe who attempt to overthrow His rule.

Secondly, God terrifies them by His word. “Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury” (v. 5). Instead of being terrified, God terrifies. God speaks and terrifies them when He speaks. Isn’t that amazing? What God does in response to their revolt and uproar is He speaks. When He speaks, the peoples are terrified by His words.

What does God speak? He says, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill” (v. 6). This is the most interesting verse in the passage, in my estimation. I mean, you might expect God to say, “I will make an end to you,” or “My judgment shall quickly come upon you.” You would at least expect some other pronouncement of judgment on the nations as retribution for their plotting against the Lord! Instead, God Himself points to His established king as the very thing that should terrify the nations. What terrifies the nations of the earth is that God has installed His king. The king is God’s solution to the world’s revolt against Him.It is the establishment of this great king that should terrify the nations, it is this king who “is set on Zion, my holy hill.” “Zion” or Jerusalem, was God’s chosen dwelling place. That’s why it’s referred to here (as many other times) as His “holy hill.” Zion is God’s territory—it is the city which God had sanctified by His presence. God wasn’t limited by a city or a hill, or a temple—but He chose to carry out His rule in the world through Israel and through Zion. Zion is truly then, God’s “footstool.”

The nations were right to feel terrified, for God would empower any king who sat on the throne of David—it’s what God promised. The rebellious nations stand no chance against a king who has God on his side. God is not bothered by men’s revolt because of His established King. What is so great about this king? Well, let’s look at vv. 7-9 for that answer.

III. The Rule of the Anointed (2:7-9)

We’ve seen the revolt of the apostates and the response of God – notice now the rule of God’s anointed. Listen to the psalmist in vv. 7-9:

7 I will tell of the decree:
The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

What is it that makes this king so great? Because he is God’s anointed who will rule all the earth. This anointed King is God’s Son who will rule the earth by His might. The psalmist interjects to explain the decree which God has spoken to His anointed king-Son and the promises included in it.

The psalmist reaches back into the past and declares: “I will tell of the decree,” meaning it was one which was previously spoken. And it is likely that this decree is a retelling of the decree which God spoke to David in 2 Samuel 7,

“Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’” (vv. 8-16).

In this decree, God promises David that His throne will go on forever. God will be a father to him, and David would be to him as a son. It is this decree which David is recalling, and it has many implications for the Messiah who is truly God’s Son, and who will also sit on David’s throne. And the psalmist is saying here, “I remember this exact decree, and here’s what it said.”

So in this decree, notice first the identity of the anointed in v. 7. “You are my Son,” says the Lord. The anointed king is God’s son. God would father King David as He loved and disciplined him, but this also looks forward to Christ who is God’s Son, His only begotten. Secondly, notice the rule of the anointed. In v. 8, the anointed king is promised worldwide rule and his kingdom shall extend to the ends of the earth: “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.” God invites the anointed king to just ask of Him and He will make Him the ruler of all the earth. The anointed king will have the nations, the very nations who have rebelled against him—he will have them as his heritage. The ends of the earth shall be his possession. In reality, this worldwide domination points beyond any earthly king because David, Solomon, and all other kings after them failed to do this. It doesn’t mean God’s promise had failed—it means that Someone greater would one day fulfill it completely. And notice finally how this anointed king will conquer all things: “You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” He shall break them, and dash them in pieces like pottery. Certainly the might of this king is very great! Again, it is clear that the dominion and rule of this anointed king looks beyond any earthly king. The language used here is elsewhere used in the Bible when talking about God and His judgment, His wrath, and His power. No earthly king will make the ends of the earth his possession. No earthly king will destroy his enemies like pottery—but a heavenly King will. Any nation or person that rebels against this Davidic King, the lion of the tribe of Judah, the Lord Jesus Christ—He shall one day be conquered. One day Christ will fulfill completely what is spoken of in this psalm—He will return and claim what is rightfully His, He will dominate the nations. The psalmist is recalling it now as his confidence that his enemies will not prevail over the kingdom of Judah, but it is also a confidence in the future installment of the King of kings who will wipe out all who stand against Him.

Believe it or not, Jesus Christ will one day rule over the United States of America. Some folks like to say that the USA is a Christian nation, but just wait until He comes. He will one day rule in the poorest places of India, He will one day rule over any tyrant such as Kim Jong Un. He will one day terminate ISIS and terrorist groups from the face of the earth. He will one day make every nation, tribe, and tongue His inheritance. He will one day rule and reign from the east to the west, from the north to the south—for He will diminish His enemies with a rod of iron, and He shall break them like pottery smashed on the ground. Revelation 6:15-17 says that this day will be so severe that people would rather be crushed by boulders than to face Jesus: “Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

Sorry if you don’t like it, but this is who Jesus is—a conquering King. He’s not some sissified, needy Jesus who is just begging you to come to Him. He is a judge called Faithful and True who will one day return to bring all things to their rightful place. And for believers today, this speaks much to how we deal with worldliness, worry, persecution, and perspective. If Jesus is coming back to conquer, then this carries many implications as to how we deal with problems in the world today. Here’s a few things Jesus’ return in this psalm means for us today:

1. We should avoid worldliness at all costs. There is no logical sense in building up earthly possessions and being concerned with worldliness, if Jesus is going to make a new world. Certainly, obsession with accumulation of possessions should be avoided because you can’t take it with you after death, but even more so because it will all be destroyed! Jesus warns us about this in Matthew 6, saying that we should not exhaust ourselves in worldliness because there will one day be no world such as the one we are in (Matthew 6:19-21).

2. We should not worry about anything earthly. We have no reason to worry, because everything will one day be in dominion under the rule of Christ, the King (Matt. 6:25-34; Phil. 4:6-7). Why worry about things of the earth, when one day, there will be no things of the earth?

3. We should be joyful in persecution. We know nothing of real persecution in the United States, but what persecution we do know – bring it on. Kill us, persecute us, do what you want – you aren’t slowing Him down from destroying you. We as believers literally have nothing to lose. We are soldiers in battle waiting for our king to return—even if we die on the battle field, He is still coming (2 Tim. 3:12).

4. We should have a heavenward perspective. Those of us on Jesus’ side should earnestly look forward to that day when He returns (Titus 2:13). We should have a perspective looking towards heaven, as we wait for Him to return in the same way He was taken up (Acts 1:11). But for those who don’t know Him, look toward Him in repentance and faith! If you do not, your fate is so terrible and dire that no description in language can capture what you will suffer.

This is the rule of the anointed and nobody will be able to stand in His way.

IV. The Recommendation to the Apostates (2:10-12)

Finally in this psalm we see a recommendation from the psalmist to those who revolt. The foolishness of their revolt has already been explained in this entire psalm. A man is a fool who revolts against the Lord because He has an installed and powerful King, His anointed one, who will conquer not only those who rebel, but the whole world. So then, the kings who revolt should be afraid, they should abandon their rebellion, they should be terrified that God has a mighty, invincible king who will conquer them with one swipe of a sword. So, the psalmist gives them a warning:

“Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (vv. 10-12).

It is clear that the only appropriate response to God’s king is service and submission. The psalmist concludes with a warning for the apostates—they should serve and submit to the Lord. First of all, he exhorts them to be wise and be warned. They would be wise to heed the warning of this psalm. “O kings, be wise,” he says, and “be warned, O rulers of the earth” (v. 10). Instead of foolishness, the wisest thing to do would be to view this decree as a warning, and heed it with all their might. Secondly, they are exhorted to serve the Lord: “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling” (v. 11). They should serve Him rather than seek to subdue Him. And they should “rejoice with trembling,” taking pleasure in God while fearing Him for who He is. And finally, they are called to take refuge in the Lord Himself. Now this is where the psalm is at its highest peak. They are exhorted: “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him!” Embrace the Son if you are among those who revolt against the Lord and His anointed! Embrace Him or face Him! Notice this is the Son of God, indicated by His powerful wrath and the capitalization of the word son. Obviously, this is no ordinary king, if His wrath is quickly kindled. This is a Son who can be angry, cause His enemies to perish, and have His wrath stirred and kindled. They would be very wise to embrace Him. The psalmist concludes with a final invitation saying, “Blessed are all who take refuge in him!” Instead of revolting foolishly, take refuge in Him! 

Let me encourage you, if you are not submitting right now to the lordship of Jesus Christ, these are His terms of peace – take refuge in Him right now. Surrender to Christ if you haven’t—instead of revolting against Him, take refuge in Him. Turn to Him right now.

Conclusion: He Is Building a Coffin For Your Empire

Flavius Julianus was a Roman Emperor for a short period of time, and he was known for reinstating pagan worship which had been abolished under the rule of Constantine. With great fury, Flavius opposed the followers of Christ and he viewed them, in his own words, as “powerful enemies of our gods.” With fanatical resolve, he sought to remove Christianity from the face of the earth. But he never realized the stupidity of his endeavor. Still, history records that Flavius persecuted many Christians and took the lives of many who stood for their faith in Christ. One day Flavius was taunting a Christian believer named Agaton, in an attempt to entertain some of his friends. With so many Christians being put to death, the emperor asked him, “So, how is your carpenter of Nazareth? Is he finding work these days?” Without hesitation Agaton replied, “He is perhaps taking time away from building mansions for the faithful, to build a coffin for your Empire.”

Agaton was right—centuries have passed and the Roman Empire has risen and fallen, but only one kingdom has withstood time, persecution, bloodshed, heresies, splits and divisions—and it is the invincible kingdom of God, ruled by King Jesus. And the Son of God still takes time away from building mansions to build coffins for those who reject His lordship. This is a rebellion you don’t want to be in.

It is foolish for man to revolt against the Lord because of the invincible and impending kingdom of Jesus Christ—instead of revolt, one should submit to and take refuge in Jesus.

Do you understand that you sin is a revolt against God? Do you view it that seriously? If not, pray that God would help you to see that way. As you get more into the word, by His grace, God will increase your hatred and sorrow for sin. Are you expectantly awaiting the return of Jesus Christ? Is the promise of His return affecting your perspective on worldliness, worry, and persecution? And do you know Him today as your Savior and Lord? Are you taking refuge in Him this day? If not, realize you are a sinner, turn away from sin once and for all, and place your faith in Jesus Christ. He is a conquering King whose kingdom is invincible – don’t reject His lordship over you, lest you wind up in a coffin He has prepared for your empire.